Mediterranean countries commit to protect unique deep-sea coral from destructive fishing
Press Release Date: November 11, 2022
Countries also agree to disclose list of vessels allowed to fish for key stocks in the Strait of Sicily
Tirana, Albania – Today, member countries of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) agreed to create, in 2023, a new fisheries closure to protect the Cabliers seamount, which harbours a semi-pristine cold-water coral reef – the only one known to be growing in the Mediterranean Sea – from the impact of destructive fishing. Despite efforts by the EU and Morocco, and expectations that an agreement would be reached at this meeting, GFCM countries postponed this decision to 2023, after an international research campaign takes place.
Helena Álvarez, senior marine scientist at Oceana in Europe, said: “We regret the GFCM decision to delay the protection of the Cabliers seamount to next year, despite the strong body of scientific evidence about this exceptional deep-sea biodiversity hotspot. The GFCM has missed an opportunity to act in accordance with the precautionary principle, particularly as some bottom trawlers are fishing in the area, which risks irreversibly damaging the seamount. We call on all Mediterranean countries to adopt, next year, an ambitious first fisheries closure to protect its unique cold-water corals and associated marine life.”
Oceana first investigated the Cabliers seamount via an at-sea expedition in 2010, and research by the Marine Science Institute – Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC) in 2015 further confirmed the uniqueness of the reef. Oceana and the ICM-CSIC officially proposed to create a fisheries restricted area (FRA) around the Cabliers seamount at the GFCM meeting in April 2022.
During its annual meeting, the GFCM also required countries to disclose crucial enforcement information regarding the vessels that would be allowed to fish in FRAs, namely target species, fishing period and area. Further, it agreed to make public the list of vessels that are authorised to fish deep-sea shrimp and hake in the Strait of Sicily. Álvarez added: “this decision is a step forward to improve transparency in the fishing sector, which is especially useful for effective controls, as hake and deep-sea shrimp continue to be overexploited in the Strait of Sicily. Having complete and accurate information on who is authorized to fish what, where and when is essential to tackle illegal fishing in the Mediterranean.”
The GFCM gathers 22 Mediterranean and Black Sea countries and the European Union. The adoption of the Fisheries Restricted Area around the Cabliers seamount would help deliver commitments from the 2017 MedFish4Ever Declaration, as well as the new GFCM 2030 Strategy, adopted by Mediterranean fisheries ministers in 2021.
The Cabliers seamount is home to commercial species, such as blackspot seabream or Norway lobster, and to others that are uncommon in the Mediterranean as a whole but highly abundant in Cabliers, as is the case with the black coral Phanopathes rigida, originally from the Atlantic.
This press release is also available in French.